When it Comes to Climate, Beware the “Calm Down” Guy

Anyone insisting that you “calm down” about climate change is living in denial about the catastrophes that are at our doorstep.

Houseboats sit in a depleted Lake Oroville in California on September 5, 2021. (Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images)

The “calm down” set fancy themselves professional and sober-minded, a tasteful levee protecting the marvel of our civilization from the uninformed and hysterical masses.

The “calm down” person’s business is the business as usual.

They defend the status quo with a practiced rueful resignation: “Believe me, I wish things were different too, but it’s just the way things are.” Only “the way things are” is on an historic and murderous losing streak.

They love to second guess the “strategies” of those who are trying to actively change or challenge the “way things are.”

“Isn’t that kind of approach counterproductive?” the “calm down” type will ask.

They worry anger or a more direct approach will turn off their friends like the “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” lady or the “don’t let the horrible be the enemy of the atrocious” guy.

When you express alarm about how rapidly the climate is warming, the “calm down” crowd will correct you with the most remedial facts. They believe that for you to be so bothered when they are not, there must be a fundamental misunderstanding on your part.

“You do know the global warming temperature is taken from a multiyear average, not single extreme heat events, right?” they will say, like a gentle bemused uncle or aunt letting the kids know that elephants don’t actually talk like they do in story books.

“Yes, I know. But is it possible these extreme heat events, because of the rapid rate of change, even if only lasting for months or weeks could trigger other thresholds if—”

But they’ve already moved on.

The “calm down” does not have time for questions in response to their answers.

After all, their answers have been approved by the large extended crowd of “calm down” friends, consultants, business leaders, journalists, politicians, pundits, financial analysts, and media personalities that they routinely lunch and work with.

Their pronouncements rising above the din and clink of a downtown or uptown, or an across-the-bridge restaurant that used to be a school or a hospital with a name like “Waif” or “32 Defunct.”

“It’s a slam dunk.”

“Free trade creates value for everyone.”

“The models show the housing market has always been stable.”

“Market-based health care is the achievable solution for right now.”

“When it comes to climate, we’re actually doing a lot.”

“The models show this temperature spike is only an anomaly.”

God forbid you point out to the “calm down” guy the numerous conflicts of interest and moral hazards that have constellated around him or her for the past thirty years, a spirograph of wrong turns and straight up disasters his “calm down” crowd has cheerled and supported.

Dark and soft money, advertising revenue, speaking fees, future jobs, board seats, university endowments, awards, hiring preferences, social media reach, financial markets, poll numbers, and on and on.

Economies form like barnacles on a ship’s hull these days, with so much money throwing its weight around every waking and sleeping moment.

How can the “calm down” expert not see this?

But be careful. Because by mentioning any of this you are committing the greatest sin there is for the “calm down” crowd: stating the obvious.

So averse is this group to stating the obvious that after a while “the obvious” or the “semi-obvious” pretty much never gets stated at all.

The oil industry and their attendant financial institutions’ almost preposterous hold on the government and its elected officials?

An economic system that has nurses paying a higher functional tax rate than billionaires?

A world climate plan that after hundreds of forums, treaties, and “net-zero pledges” still saw emissions reach their highest levels ever this past year?

All of it risks not only upsetting the Calm Down Guy’s well-developed delicate late-twentieth-century aesthetic taste, but worst of all, it might just get “the people” riled up or in the worst of all possible outcomes, actually demanding change and accountability.

Freak storms, fires, mass inhalation events, and megadroughts?

“A troubling look into our climate future.” The “calm down” expert intones, vague ideas of a three-part series and who knows, maybe an award or two running through his mind in an instant.

“But it’s all happening right now at the same time,” you say, scratching your head with an almost manic fervency.

“It’s happened before. Winter tornados, El Niño, droughts. Let’s not overreact,” he says or posts or op-edifies. “Calm down.”

And it is then that you realize this perfectly smooth stone of a person will get a lot of people killed. And after it happens, they will let us all know there was no way anyone could have ever known.